NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot wants the space agency to examine the feasibility of including astronauts on the Space Launch System rocket’s first integrated flight with the Orion spacecraft, SpaceNews reported Wednesday.
Jeff Foust writes Lightfoot directed Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA, to launch a study into potential technical and schedule challenges that may arise if the agency adds a crew to Exploration Mission 1.
NASA currently plans to launch the EM-1 mission without astronauts in 2018 then deploy EM-2 as the first crewed SLS flight in 2021.
Allison Miller, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, said the company will support NASA on the feasibility study as the Orion prime contractor.
“We’ll look at accelerating remaining crew system designs, as well as potential technical and schedule challenges and how to mitigate them,” Miller added, according to the report.